Saturday, October 31, 2015

All Things Work Together for Good

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. ~Romans 8:28

We went to apple country last Friday and then hiked in the woods at Fort Mountain State Park, as the Princess wanted since we had not been there for six years. Sore from the hiking, Saturday I painted the last windows frames as it was a warm, dry day. The outside of all the windows are finally done.  So, by Sunday my legs were quite sore, but I helped my husband with painting the porch railing and all the visible spots are done, but I like to paint the undersides and the back of the posts at the steps on the ground too, so I still have that to do before cold weather sets in.

Understandably, I was so tired Sunday night that I was ready for bed early, but I saw on Google Hangouts, where my daughter "talks" with a classmate, that he invited her to read one of his Google docs. Out of curiosity, I looked at what she had in her own Google docs. There were a few, one written by the Princess was from the perspective of our late cat, Jamie, who typed everything in CAPS. He was worried about her for various reasons and about things she was doing and had not been doing. He was asking the intended recipient to help her, but no help would have come as the letter to her classmate was not sent nor was it accessible to him...and later I would find that she never intended to really sent it.

Now I have a rather imaginative child and writing is her main outlet of her often wildest of ideas. I try not to take most of them seriously, because at times she is just writing out things she is churning over in her brain, including some of her darkest thoughts—teens tend to have quite a few—and that is all it is. However, this one hit me rather hard. The Princess has been uncharacteristically withdrawn ever since school started and somehow it just felt that I should investigate further about the things she had written. So, then I was wide awake, unable to sleep, and not wanting to wake my daughter, who has enough difficulty falling to sleep, all this with having to prepare for her classes in the morning.

Although I was still concerned, most of the urgency from the preceding night had left me in the morning with focusing on just getting everything packed for the day of errands. We were in the van completely ready to go with the keys in the ignition and she was settling in her seat when it all came to a halt.

I saw something that made everything my sweet, little Princess had written an absolute alarming truth, rather than abstract ravings from a creative teenage mind. Realizing that I had seen something she only halfheartedly had hidden, she immediately was in tears.

At first I was angry, but it was only out of shock. I told her we were going back into the house and there I was rather calm when I asked her why she would do such a thing and she yelled out in fear and frustration that she was failing at school, that she had not been handing in her work since school began!

I just could not believe it! How many times had I asked her if she needed help? The same number of times she would say, "No, I'm fine." How many times did I ask her if she had gotten all her assignments done? The same number of times she had said, "Yes." How many times had I trusted her and not looked everything over? The same number of times she had lied to me over a two month period. How many times do I tell her that I love her, give her hugs (well, try to), and tell her how special she is to me, to her father, and to God? Probably as many times as she had been rejecting it all. I was hoping it was just one of those teenage phases that would be passing...eventually.

I called the school telling them she would not be in classes and that I needed her teachers to call when they could, because part of me felt she was still exaggerating it to be worse than it was and I needed to verify her claims with the teachers. However if it was true, I was not going to be too happy they had not brought this to my attention weeks ago. I also left a message for her piano teacher saying we would not be there. And I called my husband, but apparently he was at an account where his cell phone has no bars, so I had to wait for him to call back. By then I was past my initial shock, ready to deal with everything alone from where we were in that moment, and seriously wanting to seek out what had been troubling my child, because that was far more important to me than school work and grades.

I also realized that she had been producing these little tells as her way of crying out for help, even as she had been rejecting it; hoping to be discovered, even though she feared it, and wanting it out of her, even though she tried to keep it a secret. She had stopped crying after the truth erupted from her earlier and there was no yelling left in her. Apparently, she had blurted out this terrible secret that she had been trying to hide for weeks and now that it was out (and I did not kill her, as she put it) she was actually talking with me openly about her fears and what she had been doing. She said she was also afraid that we would kick her out, even though we have NEVER made that threat.

It is kind of ironic, in a way, I had just written the encouragement letter to her that they will give her on high school science retreat that she is leaving for early tomorrow morning and I wrote it based on the Christian song "More Than You Think I Am" because I felt she had all these ideas about who I was as her mother and how I would respond to things, but she did not really understand the love I have for her and the grace I am ready to show her. I am telling you that God has been guiding this child very heavily from all angles, even while she was making very poor choices.

The algebra teacher called. This is the only teacher that she had last year, so she knows how different my daughter has been this year and we talked once before about our concerns. She told me that the Princess was behind in handing in some work, but she was not worried about the math, as she is rather bright in class, but she was far more concerned about her emotional state. I asked for a list of what was not turned in. I got it the next day and she was being very forgiving, because she only listed the last three weeks and was forgiving the rest. When I compared my daughter's list yesterday showing she handed in a little less than half and saw how she was not recalling how to do the work, I made the decision that she would do all of it with me so that she would actually learn it—that what homeschooling is really about after all, really learning not just testing well.

My husband called back finally and came home immediately, which was about an hour later as he was in town. Thank you, Lord. He had that time to drive to think out his initial anger response and was quite calm as he talked with her, but she was in a completely different frame of mind by then. She was initially worried that he was going to be angry, but after she realized that he was not going to "kill" her either, as she put it, nor kick her out of the house, she was actually smiling! I have not seen but a handful of genuine smiles since school started! My husband had to go back to work.

Afterward, I received a call from to her first science teacher, who only had her for September and then will have her for most of the second semester, and asked for a list of her incomplete work. Her current science teacher was too busy with the upcoming retreat, but I know she will get back to me when she can.

At dinner on Monday, my daughter was the child I had always known before all of this. She was talking! She laughed! She joked around! She was holding her head up instead of trying to hide and look down all the time! Her eyes twinkled! I turned toward my husband with an incredulous happy look and he said it was as if a great weight had been lifted.

We had taken all day Monday and Tuesday off for mental health days so that our emotions could stabilize: I can be the pillar of calm reasoning in a crisis but I have been known crash to an emotional puddle when it is mostly over and, for the Princess, we are hoping she settles in that happier state we are still seeing. We talked a lot about her fear of failing was actually resulting in her making choices that would cause her to fail. We talked about how everything she did and did not do so far is fixable and all can heal, and that we have flexibility because she is in a homeschool school taught by caring Christian homeschooling parents.

Wednesday we began tackling the overdue math assignments. All of my homeschooling lessons will be put on hold until we have everything with her outside classes caught up and I think it will take at least three weeks, but I also think that the Princess will feel much better once it is done.

I am hoping she has learned that avoiding things can allow them to grow into overwhelming problems so it is better to take them head on when they are smaller and more manageable; that asking for help is not showing weakness but showing faith in God that He will provide the knowledge needed; that accepting help when offered is honoring God because He had provided the help she needs; that God's grace overflows from the people He has placed in her life, including her parents (who did not "kill" her); and that we really do love her more than she can possibly understand almost as much a God does. So, in the end, maybe it was just one of those teenage phases, a temporary lapse of good judgment that just overwhelmed her quickly. I have that hope.

My Lord, thank you for always guiding my daughter back to You when she has made poor choices. May this lesson stay strong with her and may she be accepting of help. Please, my Lord, lavish Your blessings on all the people who have been praying for her.

Monday, October 19, 2015

More Broken Things!

God uses broken things. It takes broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. ~Vance Havner

Enough already! Two weeks ago Dragon Heart's (my mini-van) the power window on the diver's side stop working in the closed position and my husband said to be grateful it got stuck closed rather than open. My husband fixed it that weekend. Sunday (yesterday) we were set to go to church in Dragon Heart and I was sitting on the passenger side, lowered my window to say something to Midnight, my cat, and the window would not go back up. In fact, when I pushed the button to have it go up it went down the rest of the way. We vacated it and went to church in the new vehicle.

So, Sunday afternoon, instead of uninstalling and then reinstalling the dishwasher that is apparently having a temperamental float switch possibly because it is not as level as it thinks it should be or it is stuck somehow, my husband replaced the power window, except he found out that he also needed to replace the switch. He will pick up the switch today and hopefully be home this week to replace it.

Today while I am out doing that stuff I do on Mondays, my husband is planning to get the dishwasher working and maybe install the new range. This will be after he sells the old dishwasher to a used appliance store and gets the new power window switch.

I have to say that at least, at the very least, we got to take the new vehicle and use that sun roof on the perfect day to have it open with sunshine and temperatures in the low 60's. It was great! This is me being grateful.

Still, just about everything I touch of late seems to be breaking or getting lost.

However, last night I fixed the Princess' camera. Not sure how exactly, but the error code is gone and it is working now. Unfortunately, the jury is still out on her cell phone; it just may need a new battery or resetting the battery indicator, not sure which. I just never have seen a battery indicator go backwards before. I mean, it starts out fully charge but also with a reading that it has a few seconds left on in the battery and as long as the phone is on or in sleep mode, the time on the battery time goes up! No, I did not touch before her cell phone before this began happening, I promise you.

My Lord, thank you for reminding me that broken things can be blessings.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Key Aspect

Gratitude turns what we have into enough. ~Author Unknown

As you know we had to buy a vehicle under duress, but God was good bringing us to the vehicle He had prepared for us. I appreciated that very much, but in truth I was still resentful about having to go into debt for a vehicle, so that my husband would not be fired, even though it is likely that his old van might not have made it for another year as we had been hoping.

As you also know our dishwasher decided to quit on us and we could have replaced the control panel for the second time (we replaced the grinder once also with a much louder one), but it if they only were lasting about four years with each replacement on this model, it just seemed to be more cost effective to buy a new one with better reviews and an extended warranty.

What you do not know is that as we came to the second appliance store looking for our dishwasher, I realized that I had lost the key to the new vehicle and only that key. It was not on my main key ring, but on the hook with it.

Of course, it is not the average key either—oh, no! It has the remote to open the doors is in the key itself. So, we spent time retracing all our steps, but we did not find it. As I thought about it, I could have lost it anytime from the previous Sunday, the only I drove the new vehicle was to pick up the Princess from play practice, and I just now noticed it that Saturday.

For the following days I called every place I had been in the past week. One actually had a remote Ford all by itself, but it was not our key, because the teeth of the key was on the outer edge and ours is a laser cut, so the outside of the key is straight and the teeth are in the middle.

Keys used to be so simple, but technology complicates everything. Between the laser cut and the programming of the remote, this is a $300 key. Not kidding!

Then I found myself thinking of Jonah sitting with a good view to watch the destruction of Nineveh still seething with resentment for having to do something he most definitely had not wanted to do. God even provided him some comfort in the shade and then He took it away.

I really should have been more grateful for the new vehicle and more careful with its special, high-priced key, which is now on my main key ring in a highly respected place and a key reminder of how to properly be grateful...and every day I am very grateful it is there!

Thank you, my Lord, for reminding me that a key aspect of being truly grateful is to not have any resentment.

Friday, October 16, 2015

An Enchantress for the Lord

I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders.
~Jewish Proverb

A few weeks ago, a lady at our church, who works with the younger children, prayed over all the teen helpers, including the Princess. A few days later, my daughter asked about what "enchantress" meant. I asked her why she was asking because I felt that she already knew what it commonly would mean. It was then that she told me the lady told her she was an enchantress. Again, I am not one to get highly concerned about such things because of two reasons:
  1. Teenagers often wrongly tell about or leave out key details about such experiences, even though they are not intentionally hiding anything or trying to deceive. 
  2. If such a word was a message from God, then it must have a completely different and anointed meaning in His realm than most Christians would associate with it.
At the time, I told my daughter that since there is nothing that God would promote that was associated with evil, then I would see the use of that word as associated with her being enchanting or charming in the way that she is as a captivating performer, whether it be performing at the piano or acting.

However, my daughter also started asking me about the population in Florida, about whether or not Fidel Castro was still alive, and concerns about Russia and China. She has had difficulty falling sleeping at night for the last few years, but recently she began having serious problems with it. She was not sleeping at all or very little with black circles under her eyes. I learned later that she was actually trying not to sleep on purpose. Remember that I am empathic so take a guess who also was beginning to have the same problems.

After quite some time in prayer and quite a few talks with quite a few people besides the Princess, including one with the lady who prayed for her, I think I finally have a better picture of what happened and is happening. The lady, who has the gift of prophetic dreams and visions, prayed over her and heard the word "enchantress," but did not say that my daughter was one. She did not feel it was meant to be a warning or condemnation and she had explained to my daughter that she did not feel it meant anything to do with witchcraft or magic, a point my daughter failed to mention. In fact, the lady told her that she felt it meant about the same thing I had thought it might mean.

Since then, the Princess has been having what she believes are prophetic visions and dreams of the End Times. She tells me that only a "handful" make it out of Florida, which becomes flooded, and a key point in her visions is that what she is seeing begins after the death of Fidel Castro. Then there are attacks on the east and west coasts by Russia and China. She even made a map showing what parts of the United States come under occupation.

Scary stuff to say the least. Now I completely understand why she has been so depressed for a few weeks. I think if I were having these same visions and dreams that would be a basket case myself, so I can only imagine what a fourteen year old might be feeling.

I am mindful that this gift happened after someone with the same gift prayed for her, because being empathic I have been influenced by other people's gifts when I touch them or am close or on rarer occasions when I am thinking or praying for them. However, it is more like a temporary borrowing that lasts just for that time not something that lasts for weeks as with the Princess. I still believe her main gift is in her performing talents, although one person told me she is a seer as she seems to have an awareness of the spiritual realm and I have seen some empathic tendencies in her as well.

I feel I need to address the "enchantress" thing, because the overwhelming response from my Christian friends have been how "enchantress" had an occult influence that would appeal to the Princess. I have prayed for her protection and for God's guidance of her since she was born, but particularly now. I have been very mindful of her in this respect before this incident for this is the age when the Christian women in my family, who became the most steadfast in their faith, were strongly drawn by the occult, but God always guided us—yes, that included me—away from it and gave us strong discernment to recognize it from that time on. I think this is kind of what my daughter is going through right now, so I also believe that she was given that word from God.

Enchantress is a word that has two meanings in the English language:
  1. a woman who practices magic; sorceress.
  2. an irresistibly charming or fascinating woman.

Looking in the Bible, I could only find these four words in Hebrew:
אָשַׁף  ashaph: (noun) a conjurer, enchanter
נָחַשׁ  nachash: (verb) to practice divination, observe signs
עָנַן  anan: (verb) to bring, but also associated with enchanter, observer of times, soothsayer, sorcerer
לָ֫חַשׁ  lachash: (noun) a whispering, charming

Obviously, most uses for these words in the Bible are nothing with which a Christian would want to be associated, BUT some of the uses are not bad at all. In fact, Isaiah 26:16, lachash is translated as a "whispered prayer!" In Genesis 9:14, God used anan to describe how He would bring clouds to make a rainbow. In Strong's Dictionary nachash also means to learn by experience, diligently observe, and even observe signs, and I know quite a few Christians who have been observing and looking for signs particularly of late with the four blood moons.

I believe its meaning was more associated with seeing signs given to my daughter to serve both as a reminder how easy it is to be seduced by Satan to use a gift in a way that does not please her Lord and also to describe her gift. Plus, she is very charming, particularly on stage, and I believe it is that gift God means to use the most to bring people to Christ. So, to me it means a charming woman with the gift of observing signs meant to be used to bring Christ to people and people to Christ because of her love for Him. That was what I believe (and also the woman who prayed over her) that God wanted the Princess to understand.

This is not the first time that I have had this kind of experience that goes against the grain in mainstream Christianity. God also gave me a gift that most Christians, including me originally, have judged as highly questionable if not down right evil. However, I know the months I spent in prayer and fasting to be sure I had God's complete approval—of a gift He gave to me, no less!— and He gave me confirmation time and time again from differing sources, even when I still would not accept His answer. I am so thankful God is so patient with stubborn Christians, who want to keep Him in a box.

I have had pastors and even very close friends tell me flat out that my gift of empathy was not a named gift in the Bible or too far removed from what they believe that they did not want anything to do with me anymore, but I have had other friends actually seek God on the matter and were given confirmation of His approval. I know, without a doubt, it came from God; I remember the moment I was given it like it was just yesterday. My Christian friends would rather describe it as a Word of Knowledge and that is fine with me; on the other hand, it just is what it is, it whatever you call it, and God gave it to me. I call it empathy because that describes it the best, like a sub category under a Word of Knowledge. The empathy works with the gift of healing, so I am aware of what a person needs in the way of healing even when they do not. Empathy was a gift I asked for, sort of; I did not ask to be empathic specifically, I simply asked to know what was wrong with people and the gift of empathy obviously was His answer.

I know this will not be a popular post and I am open to discussing anything here. I would just like to bring up a few other terms used by Christians and non-Christians and even Occultists: healer, seer, and prophet. My point is that the word "enchantress" in God's Kingdom cannot have a bad meaning and I choose to live in God's Kingdom. So, if my Lord has said my daughter is an enchantress, then it must have a holy meaning honoring Him that has been twisted by evil in our fallen world and I choose to see it through His heart and I believe that is where He has led me.

My Lord, I do not understand everything in Your Kingdom. I am a child hungry for the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom You will provide for my daughter, my husband, and me. Help me be strong when I need to be strong, have my eyes and heart open to what You wish me to see, and be Your humble student always.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The New Vehicle and The Refi

So you think that money is the root of all evil. Have you ever asked what is the root of all money? ~Ayn Rand

We are now in the latter part of the process for refinancing our house. We planned to do this when the siding work was finished; we had saved up for half of the job and placed the cost of the second half on a credit card, which would have been fine, except with the amount we pay for a first and second mortgages and our expenses it was going to be really tight to make credit card payments too. Then, came the necessity to buy a new vehicle, just so my husband could stay employed, with its accompanying car loan....

Refinancing the house became no longer a choice, it was a necessity. So, we began the refinancing process with the idea that we would wrap up the entire cost of the vehicle into it.

We went to look at used vehicles and did something we never do: we bought one on the spot. It was like God placed it there just for us. It had exactly what my husband wanted, all wheel drive and a tow package already installed. It is not white, which I appreciate so much, my Lord, since both our minivans are white and we never liked the color. This one is a red metallic on the orange side, a guy color for sure but I keep telling myself it is a lovely autumn color because I am just still so happy it is not white. Do you know what God threw into the deal for me that I just had a passing thought that it would be nice but was not a necessity? A huge sunroof! I cannot wait to go on our annual autumn trip to north Georgia!

For the vehicle financing, we placed $10,000 on another credit card to wrap into the mortgage refinancing and the remainder as a car loan through our credit union with a interest rate that was actually lower than the mortgage would be. You might ask why do it that way instead of placing the entire amount on the car loan. This is the why: We purchased a 2014 vehicle and the Runzheimer plan for my husband is three years or I forget how many miles, which is based on his previous driving records. In addition, the car can only be up to five years old and ours is technically already two years old, so like it or not we will have to buy another car in three years regardless. We did not want to be perpetually in debt with car loans so the plan is that we pay $105 more per month on our four year loan to pay it off completely in three years, while at the same time saving money specifically for the cost of another car to be purchased in 2018. Then I will be given his vehicle and he will have the newer one.

If I were to look at all this another way, we placed the entire cost of the siding project in the refi and have a smaller car loan. Thankfully, the housing market has rebounded in our area. In fact, it rebounded as sharply up as it went sharply down. Do you remember I Was Afraid to Hope... when I cried for hours over not being able to refinance the mortgage five years ago because our home was worth about half of what it was when we bought it? Yeah, well, it has been increasing as we were paying the mortgage down and this year the county assessed the value of our house increased $25,000 this year alone. Now it is worth more than when we bought it and the appraiser agreed, so our refi is going to happen as soon as we pick a closing date.

Oh, but then—yes, there is more!—a certain major kitchen appliance, who shall remain unnamed, decided to take an early retirement from washing dishes without notice. We went this past Saturday looking at stainless steel dishwashers, which we had narrowed down to two or three from the reviews online. But, while we were there—you all know that if I break the grammar rule of not starting a sentence with a conjunction that I am trying to get your attention and make a strong point, right?—my husband spied an out-of-the-box LG stainless steel convection gas range at a very good price and it did not have a visual scratch anywhere. The saleswoman finalized the deal with the coupon and sale on Sunday evening with an additional 12% off.

The cost of these two appliances has been added to one of the credit cards that will be wrapped into the refi. Now I have two matching stainless steel appliances (not yet picked up and installed) and I still have an almond refrigerator. I looked at the refrigerators because...well, if my husband could make the argument that our working stove needed to be replaced because we have to turn the food so it does not burn on one side, then I could make the argument that we needed a new refrigerator because our working refrigerator freezes items in the crispers and items at the back, which can ruin fresh raw foods.

To be honest, I let the refrigerator thing go for now because the stainless steel, French door refrigerator I really want by LG is so new that very few stores have it available and it costs as much as the two appliances we just bought. Because we eat a diet high in fresh, raw foods, which are bulky, I need a larger refrigerator than we have. I also buy some things that should not be frozen in bulk when on sale that keep rather well, like cheese. Also, we do not want water dispenser or even an ice maker, but there is one in the freezer. We did discuss putting the refrigerator we have in the garage and maybe getting rid of one of the freezers, and we would need to do this if we had the land for milking goats and egg laying chickens, but we are not there yet.

Ideally, we need a full refrigerator beside a matching full upright freezer in our kitchen with the handles placed next to each other so they look like one unit with French doors, but we do not have the kitchen for that either. We have a tall list of must-haves for the next house, if we ever get there, with a huge pantry also in the kitchen or the mud room of a ranch home with a full basement. I can dream!!!

You thought I was done right? No. Ever since the siding job, I have not been able to pull my van into the garage because of paint cans, remodeling materials, lots of wood boards, and just things that were put on so they were handy, but now are just piles. (I will say that the workout area in the garage is still clean up enough we can use it.) To clean up the garage properly, my husband has been wanting another larger shed—did you guess? Yes, another cost that he is planning to wrap into the refi, but at least he is planning to build it himself.

In truth, my husband originally thought we might be placing the entire amount of the new vehicle in it before all this a well what was left over from the siding job so we are pre-approved for a higher amount than we will be needing. Still, I wanted our debt to be little as possible.

My Lord, thank you for the choices we were able to make and even the timing of our dishwasher quitting. Thank you also for providing for us a vehicle that will serve our needs.